Improving Reclamation's Capacity to Disseminate Information and Receive Feedback

Project ID: 2055
Principal Investigator: Douglas Clark
Research Topic: Water Resource Data Analysis
Funded Fiscal Years: 2015
Keywords: social media, public relations, public feedback, communication

Research Question

What mechanisms is Reclamation currently using to "get the word out" about Reclamation policies and operations? And what mechanisms is the agency using to gather and process feedback data from stakeholders, other governmental and non-governmental agencies, water managers, watershed groups, scholars, and the public as to the successful accomplishment of its mission? Are our current feedback mechanisms adequate to assess public opinion as to our identity and mission?
What technologies exist to enhance Reclamation's capacity for gathering feedback and disseminate information? What monitoring is being done or should be done to evaluate our projects and programs to learn if water and related resources are being managed in an economically and ecologically sound manner? Are state-of-the-art communications technologies being fully utilized to "get the word out" about Reclamation operations? What mechanisms are in place or could be used within Departmental and Reclamation policies to gather more input from stakeholders and the public to better shape our messages and improve our brand identity? What are the strengths and limitations of the various available technologies?
What questions is Reclamation currently asking its constituencies about its operations, and are they right questions? How do Reclamation employees assess the level of "top-of-the-mind" awareness as to Reclamation's mission and responsibilities in the Western states? Is Reclamation still confused with other agencies? What is the level of perception that stakeholders and public have as to Reclamation's capacity to respond to ideas, questions, and information needs of the public and stakeholders?
Are internal and external behaviors being changed as the result of public communications? What brand awareness exists with respect to Reclamation's operations?

Need and Benefit

Put in the briefest terms, Reclamation needs to LISTEN to its customers and to the American public, and it needs to explore every technical avenue for doing so efficiently and effectively. Obviously, stakeholder and public feedback is vital for senior managers as they contemplate directions to steer Reclamation in the near and far terms. For instance, if feedback from a constituency suggests that its interests are being underserved, this would provide a first indication that a decision-maker should initiate consultations. In this way, highly effective communications can help our agency to avoid escalating water conflicts. At the other extreme, if Reclamation is receiving particularly high marks from a constituency, or its monitoring of a resource is showing positive results, the decision-maker may want to investigate whether what is working well in one instance is transferable. Gathering "futures" data from watershed leaders, watershed groups, scholars, etc. will help Reclamation leaders to make more informed policy and operational decisions. Reclamation annually competes with other agencies for appropriations. Increasing public awareness and understanding of our mission and responsibilities will increase our profile with Congressional oversight and appropriations committees. Using new technologies in support of public engagement to solve water and power challenges could reduce litigation by fostering dialogue at all levels of government. As policies and programs are developed and implemented over the next five to ten years, we must accomplish what the public and the stakeholders require. The first step is to use outreach technologies to understand those requirements. Finally, Reclamation needs to monitor emerging technologies to better communicate the effects of managing water in the West in an era of climate change and possible extreme water supply variability.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Two-Way Communications With Stakeholders (final, PDF, 1.2MB)
By Douglas Clark
Publication completed on September 30, 2016

This bulletin summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20